After a previous post on Ancient Rome’s beauty secrets, I decided to give a spin-off to that post.
Indeed, we all remember peplum movies where we see beautiful empresses. Just think of Quo Vadis or even Gladiator…
Consequently, I decided to explore the beauty secrets of one of these fascinating Roman empresses. She may be one of the less famous, but she was definitely the most beautiful of all…
I’ll give a clue: she was the wife of one the least popular Roman emperor in history. Can you guess?
Well, let me help you. I’ll talk about Sabina Poppaea, wife of Emperor Nero.
Indeed, during her lifetime, Sabina Poppaea was hailed as the most beautiful woman in Rome. And she had some beauty secrets that came to us. Are you ready to discover Sabina Poppaea’s beauty secrets? Let’s go!
Who is Sabina Poppaea?
Birth and family
Sabina Poppaea was born around 30 AD. She was the daughter of Titus Ollius and Sabina Poppaea the Elder. Through she was born in an influential family, her beginning in life were quite sad.
Indeed, her father was quaestor during the reign of Tiberius who was forced to commit suicide during her childhood. He was too close to Sejanus, a former minister of Tiberius who was accused of treason.
As for her mother, people saw her as one of the most beautiful women in Rome. Therefore, she aroused the jealousy of Messalina, wife of Emperor Claudius. To get rid of her, Messalina falsely accused her mother of adultery. Unfortunately, Sabina Poppaea the Elder had to take her own life.
Having this unfortunate beginning in life, the little Poppaea knew she had to fight to survive. She had to be the predator or the prey.
Marriages before Nero
When she was 14, Poppaea married Rufrius Crispinus, the head of the Praetorian Guard of Emperor Claudius. However, the new Empress Agrippina dismissed him because she considered him as being faithful to Messalina’s memory. For the record, Messalina killed herself when all her sexual dalliances were exposed. Isn’t that ironic??? During her first marriage, Poppaea had a son.
Later, she divorced her husband and married Otho, a close friend of Nero’s. She probably wanted to get closer to the Emperor. And she managed to do that, with her own feminine weapons…
Otho always bragged about his wife’s beauty, education, and fairness. Thus, he aroused Nero’s curiosity because he became obsessed with her. He wanted to possess that woman. Therefore, he asked his friend to introduce Poppaea to him.
First, Poppaea resisted. She wanted to increase Nero’s interest. When she felt that Nero was ready, she finally agreed to appear to one of his parties. There, Nero was mesmerized by her beauty and intelligence. Soon, she quickly became Nero’s mistress and her marriage with Otho was history!
But there was one person in the palace who was greatly displeased with Poppaea’s new place in Nero’s heart: his mother. Indeed, Agrippina the Younger did everything she could to place Nero in power. And one of her plans included marrying Nero to his cousin Octavia. She scolded Nero and urged him to make babies to his legitimate wife, who was of the family of the Caesars.
But Nero was madly in love and didn’t want to listen to his mother anymore. First, he started to move her away from power. Then, Poppaea influenced him to kill his mother, so that they would live their love without constraints. Nero obliged, though matricide was severely punished in Rome.
Empress of Rome
When Nero killed his mother, Poppaea knew she had another obstacle to get rid of. And this time, it wasn’t easy because Octavia was the legitimate wife of Nero. The Roman people loved and cherished her. Consequently, she had to move fast if she wanted to become empress.
First, she became pregnant. At that stage, Nero decided to divorce Octavia, arguing she was barren. After the divorce, he banished his first wife to a remote island. But Poppaea wanted more. Indeed, she felt that she wasn’t safe as long as Octavia was alive. The Roman people loved Octavia too much and despised her.
Therefore, she pushed Nero to order Octavia’s death. Once he did that, he finally married Poppaea. Afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter named Claudia Augusta. Unfortunately, the baby died four months later. Don’t mess with karma…
During her tenure as empress, Poppaea was very elegant and beautiful. However, she was the hidden force behind some unfortunate decisions, such as the torture of Christians after Rome’s burning. Sad…
In 65 AD, Poppaea became pregnant for the second time. However, one night, Nero came back intoxicated. And she started to scold him. Being drunk, Nero kicked her belly very violently several times. Consequently, she had a premature labor and she died with her baby. When Nero came back to his senses, he realized what he did. Thus, he went into deep mourning and gave her magnificent funeral.
Later, Nero took a slave named Sporus as his lover. He chose him because he was a masculine Poppaea’s lookalike. Afterwards, he ordered him to be castrated and to live like a woman. He would even marry him in a traditional ceremony. Sometimes, he would even call him Poppaea. Well, this is weird…
Her physical appearance
Like her mother, Poppaea was extremely beautiful and fulfilled all the beauty standards of Ancient Rome. Indeed, she was fair-skinned, had red hair, and a curvaceous body.
Moreover, she aroused mystery because she wore a huge veil when she got out. During that time, wearing a huge veil was rather old-fashioned. But she used that at her advantage. Indeed, the veil would protect her skin from the sun. Also, when men discovered what was hidden behind the veil, they yearned for more!
Poppaea’s beauty secrets
Poppaea took great care of her beauty. For instance, she was famous for her donkey milk’s bath, just like Cleopatra. According to Cassius Dio , she travelled with 500 donkeys everywhere to get her daily milk.
Also, she avoided the sun and dreaded the old age. She even wished to die before getting old. Well, she just had that. Be careful of what you wish for your life, ladies…
Did you know that Poppaea might have started facials without knowing it? Indeed, during her beauty treatments, she would put bread slices soaked with donkey’s milk on her face. She believed that it had anti-aging and softening properties. She called this beauty treatment pommata. Some believed that the word pomade come from there…
Moreover, I saw someone saying that it was Poppaea who started the craze around donkey milk’s bath, and not Cleopatra. However, in the 20th century, a Ukrainian doctor named Adrian Baraniecki wanted to encourage milk baths. And he needed to promote his newfound craze and crafted a brilliant marketing campaign.
Therefore, he attributed milk baths to Cleopatra as a marketing stunt. He used Cleopatra as she was known as an intelligent and powerful woman rather than Poppaea, who was perceived as frivolous and maleficient.
What we can learn from Sabina Poppaea
“Beauty is power; a smile is its sword” – John Ray
As we saw earlier, Sabina Poppaea was extremely beautiful. In times when a woman had little means to survive on her own, she relied on her beauty to do so. Thus, her beauty was a weapon that she used to get power and avenge her parents.
Also, she teaches us that even if you are beautiful, you must always take care of it. Indeed, beauty is short-lived especially if you don’t have proper habits. For instance, think of your beauty as a plant that you must always entertain to remain beautiful.
“Outer beauty turns the head, but inner beauty turns the heart” – Helen J. Russell
However, despite being extremely beautiful, Poppaea was also a cruel, ruthless, and despicable human being. She made Nero execute his mother and his wife. Also, she was behind some of his cruelest decisions.
Therefore, I urge you to take care of your inner beauty as well as your outer beauty. If you have outer beauty but you neglect your character, you’ll be the ugliest person ever.
And Poppaea is the living proof of that fact. Indeed, despite her extreme physical beauty, people don’t remember her as one of the greatest Roman Empresses. Rather, they would remember women like Livia or Julia Domna who had amazing characters!
Well, that’s it for today! What do you think of Sabina Poppaea‘s beauty secrets? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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